February 18, 2015 report
Kickstarter Project 'GreenDino'—Cognitoy that connects with IBM's Watson supercomputer
A group called Elemental Path has posted a Kickstarter project aimed at kids, or perhaps more accurately, their parents. And they want investors to offer funds to both build an idea and a finished product. They call their idea, cognitoys—toys with some degree of cognition so that kids that play with them can interact. It is a grand idea, filled with both promise and trepidation.
To get their ideas off the ground, the team has built the GreenDino—a green dinosaur toy with a big button on the front that can be pushed when a child wishes to interact. There is not much inside, just a microphone, speaker and a little bit of electronics for communicating with IBM's cloud technology. But, at least at this point, that is all that is needed. Children can ask the Dino questions, ask for a knock-knock joke or offer a quip for an expected retort—telling it "see ya later alligator" will get them a response of the familiar "after a while crocodile."
But clearly what the team is proposing is far more than a simplistic toy, they envision a virtual friend, or sibling—a wise sage that learns more about the child as the child ages and modifies how it interacts. Such a toy could likely mark the initial foray into robot companionship of the type only seen in science fiction movies. A companion that could offer advice, listen and offer reminders. A friend that could help solve problems in both emotional and logical ways. A friend that knows you better than anyone else ever has or ever possibly could. And that of course leads to inevitable questions about the wisdom of developing such robots, or toys. Would a child give up on human friends? And what about all that data collected over a lifetime—every secret, every action recorded and stored away. How could anyone ever believe it would never be used by IBM, the folks at Elemental Path or people at companies where such information is bought and sold? Tough questions, though it appears a lot of people are interested in finding the answers—GreenDino has already garnered nearly double the amount of pledge money the team was initially looking for.
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